By Don Banks
September 08, 2010
NFL Power Rankings (cont.)
21 Washington Redskins
Pre-camp: 22
The good news for the Redskins is that Donovan McNabb and his gimpy ankle look ready for Sunday night's showdown against Dallas. The bad news for McNabb? In the NFL's version of the "Groundhog Day'' scenario, he's going to look up at the line of scrimmage and find the Cowboys staring him down once again. He just played and lost to these guys twice in a row to end his 11-year Philly tenure, in Week 17 and the first round of the playoffs last season. Now here they come again.
22 Carolina Panthers
Pre-camp: 20
Their offseason of housecleaning sets up the Panthers nicely for the potential lockout next spring, but it's not entirely evident just yet what it means for their 2010 season. Carolina is young and homegrown (35 of its 53 players were Panthers draft picks) and there is talent in place. But can a Matt Moore-led passing game produce enough points to challenge New Orleans and Atlanta in the NFC South? I'm dubious.
23 Denver Broncos
Pre-camp: 21
Watching how the Broncos choose to use Tim Tebow in games might offer the best entertainment of the season in Denver. But after that, 2009's rollercoaster ride to 8-8 might come to be remembered as the good ol' days of the Josh McDaniels era. I'm forecasting just six wins and the first last-place showing for the Broncos since 1999.
24 Jacksonville Jaguars
Pre-camp: 23
The Jaguars refused to draft Tebow, but he still wound up producing for them this season. Sunday's opener against Denver is sold out and will be televised locally in Jacksonville because the Broncos' No. 2 (or 3?) quarterback is a local kid who made good. And that could be it this season for Jaguars sellouts. We're serious.
25 Seattle Seahawks
Pre-camp: 24
When's the last time a team with this much late-preseason upheaval on the roster didn't quickly sink to the depths of its division? The Seattle offensive line situation is chaotic enough, and now OL coach Alex Gibbs isn't even around any more to make fixes on the fly. None of this will be good for Matt Hasselbeck's health, I predict.
26 Kansas City Chiefs
Pre-camp: 29
The jury is still way out on the Matt Cassel era in Kansas City, but does any quarterback in the league need a little early season success to build on more than the onetime Patriots backup? The Chiefs have surrounded him with some nice new playmakers in Dexter McCluster, Thomas Jones and Tony Moeaki, and he now has Charlie Weis in his ear during games. Time for M.C. to start producing in K.C.
27 Detroit Lions
Pre-camp: 27
Teams that win big in the NFL have quality quarterbacking and stout defensive line play, and that's where the Lions are headed in year two of the Jim Schwartz era. They're not there yet, and they won't be a factor in the NFC North again this season. But you can see the makings of a winning program coming together in Motown, and that's progress in and of itself.
28 Cleveland Browns
Pre-camp: 30
Credit to veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme for winning over some of the critics (like me) with a very solid preseason performance for the improved Brownies. But let's see if the ratcheting up of regular season intensity brings back "Jake the Mistake'' of the past 20 months or so.
29 Chicago Bears
Pre-camp: 26
Not all 0-4 preseasons are created equal, of course. I'm not worried in the least about the Colts. They always lose in August. But the Bears were a calamity in going winless, and I'm afraid it portends the last-place season to come in Chicago.
30 St. Louis Rams
Pre-camp: 32
Yeah, it was only preseason, but I think we've already seen that when the Rams keep Sam Bradford upright, the kid can deliver the football and hang up some points. Two words to make your mantra, Steve Spagnuolo: Max protect.
31 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pre-camp: 28
I read where 29 of the 53 players (55 percent) on the Bucs opening-week roster have arrived since Tampa Bay canned head coach Jon Gruden in January 2009. Wow. That's what you call an extreme makeover. Like, Lady Gaga-style.
32 Buffalo Bills
Pre-camp: 31
The Bills have found themselves a legitimate home-run threat in rookie running back C.J. Spiller. But they will also find themselves facing an 11th consecutive playoff-less season, a sixth straight losing year, and a likely top-three draft choice next April.
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